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Jazzmatazz: Streetsoul

As a fan of Gang Starr and Guruís previous work, I was looking forward to checking out volume three of his Jazzmatazz series but after the first listen, I was disappointed. You have to appreciate the undertaking, working with so many guest artists and producers canít be an easy task, but this time around Guru doesnít succeed. On volume one of Jazzmatazz, Guru invited the respected talents of musicians Ronny Jordan, Roy Ayers, and Lonnie Liston Smith creating an original blend of jazz and hip-hop. This was an original concept because Guru included the musicianís to work on the track as opposed to sampling them. With Jazzmatazz volume two, Guru pushed the whole concept further, choosing to incorporate and experiment with artists of different genres such as Jamiroquai, Chaka Khan, and MíShell Nídegeocello at a time when hip-hop was not a huge part of popular culture. On the latest album, Guru set out to produce a record with elements of both hip-hop and R&B and, by the sound of it, he seems to think he was the first to try this. As stated in the intro, the record is "defining a whole new style of music" and he "took the rarest ingredients, mixed them and fused them." This simply isnít the case.

Even with "rare" ingredients like pop heavyweights Erykah Badu and Macy Gray, this does not sound like the super collective it should have been. Instead of sounding original, it sounds pressed straight from the radio friendly cookie cutter. Guru and DJ Premier as Gang Starr could be considered one of the late hip-hop pioneers, but nowadays, Guruís monotone, braggadocio rhyme style comes off tired and played out, unconsciously dating himself. It seems as if the only thing holding this album together is the talent of his guests. The strongest cuts on the album are only the result of his guests. Material with The Roots, Craig David and a track with reggae star Junior Reid get you moving and this has nothing to do with Guru or his lyrical style. I wonder if he should consider taking more of a producer role in the recording process because the ideas are there, he just falls short. "Keep Your Worries" with Angie Stone sounds like a majority of the R&B on the radio and is far from the ground breaking material Guru seems to think it is. It makes you wonder if without the cocky attitude, the album could of come off as a half decent pop effort but the "man with master plan" attitude really starts wear thin. It simply isnít fun anymore.

Perhaps the greatest let down was "Night Vision," a track featuring the man himself, Isaac Hayes. In theory this should have been an incredible track but the song drags and Guruís machismo makes it almost unbearable. His strongest lyrics are the ones in which he rhymes about social issues or any real issues besides "the loot" and rubbing women the right way. If Guru stuck to more social tracks like "Whoís There" with Les Nubians or the collaboration with Junior Reid, this album could have been far more memorable. Itís not that the album has to have a socially conscious theme throughout, but that seems to be when Guru begins to shine. As for the macho side, maybe he should work on his self-esteem issues outside of the studio.

-Justin Hardison

Track Listing:

  1. Intro
  2. Keep Your Worries (featuring Angie Stone)
  3. Hustliní Daze (featuring Donell Jones)
  4. All I Said (featuring Macy Gray)
  5. Certified (featuring Bilal)
  6. Plenty (featuring Erykah Badu)
  7. Lift Your Fist (featuring The Roots)
  8. Guidance (featuring Amel Larrieux)
  9. Interlude (Brooklyn Skit)
  10. Super Love (featuring Kelis)
  11. No More (featuring Craig David)
  12. Whereís My Ladies (featuring Big Shug)
  13. Night Vision (featuring Isaac Hayes)
  14. Whoís There? (featuring Les Nubians)
  15. Mashiní Up Da World (featuring Junior Reid and Prodigal Son)
  16. Timeless (featuring Herbie Hancock)

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